0300: PT 73 quietly slipped away from the dock and headed for her target. With her crew in civvies, her number painted over, odd colors of paint splashed here and there on her hull, decks heaped with old nets, and crates hiding depth charges scattered around, she looked like any one of a number of nondescript fishing boats common in these islands. The Seabees, accompanied by a tall, dark-haired lieutenant, followed in another small craft. They'd take a slightly different course to their landing site.
"Now remember you guys," McHale instructed the crew, "We're fishermen. Anybody asks, we got this old wreck from Chief Urulu and we split any profits with him."
"Urulu's the biggest con man in the South Pacific," Christy laughed. "He's almost as good as Gruber!"
"Knock it off!" the CO admonished as the laughter grew louder. "Don't want to alert the enemy in case anyone's around. They might be doing some fishing of their own. And remember – Fuji and I will handle the talking."
"Might as well do some fishing then," Parker added as he picked up a pole. "I remember catching trout in the streams back home in Chagrin Falls . . ." The young ensign was lost in the realm of childhood memories.
"Better show him how it's done," Willy's hillbilly drawl caught the Skip's attention.
"Good idea, Willy. Gruber, Virgil. Grab a pole and join them at the gunnels. And don't let Mr. Parker fall overboard!"
A couple of hours – and seven good-sized fish – later, the 73 pulled into a small dock. McHale counted two planes; the third was out on its run. Two soldiers approached, rifles at ready. The Skip nodded at Fuji, who picked up a particularly fine fish and showed it to the guards.
"Konichiwa! We're fishermen from another island. You want to buy fresh fish? Just caught this morning." He held out the catch for inspection.
The two guards motioned to a third man, probably the cook. He and Fuji began to haggle on the price. Fuji took his time, talking about the many ways to cook it. He'd gotten as far as wrapping it in banana leaves and slow-roasting it in a deep pit oven, when he was interrupted by the drone of planes overhead. The Black Sheep, coming in for a landing!
The surprised guards scanned the skies, hunting for the invaders. At McHale's sudden command, Don't move! Drop those rifles!," they looked at the old boat, only to find themselves facing an armed crew. No choice! No time for any action. They dropped their guns and raised their hands, A few minutes, they were secured and under guard on the 73's deck
"Traitor!" one of then hissed at Fuji.
The little cook looked him in the eye. "No. American!" The pride in his voice brought a smile to McHale's face. He vowed he'd see his young friend become a citizen.
"OK, guys," the Skip ordered, "Our reinforcements are here. Stone, you go with Pappy and help set the charges. Christy, take a camera and get some shots of those planes before we blow them to Kingdom come! Willy, Tinker, with me. Fuji, Virgil, Gruber, stay on board and pay attention
to anything our prisoners say. Chuck, man the radio! Got it, everybody?" A successful landing accomplished; now for the next phase of the operation.
Boyington watched as the disguised 73 pulled in. Right on time! A wiggle of his wings and four Corsairs swooped in for a landing. Stone helped lift the canopies and the men headed for the encampment.
"They've seen us come in, so we've lost the element of surprise," He yelled for Mike to grab some charges. "You guys, too," he barked at some of the Seabees. After all, those guys worked with explosives. "Take care of those planes! Let Christy get his pictures, then blast 'em!"
He signaled to his boys and the remaining Seabees, "Let's head for the tents. We've got two pilots and ground crew to take care of! The guys upstairs can handle that last Zeke when it comes in."
Pappy's army circled through the underbrush, approaching the encampment from the rear. No time to worry about the guys at the planes-his marines could handle themselves, the Seabees, and the enemy. Which they did. Easily. Two pilots, three mechanics, and one off duty radioman turned in surprise as a thundering herd of Marines and sailors charged the rear of their tents. No time for the code of "death before surrender." They dropped their weapons and raised their hands.
"Search 'em, then tie 'em up." Pappy's terse command was quickly obeyed. Their prisoners were secured and herded out to the center of the camp.
"Get that flag down! Pronto!" Pappy pointed at the Rising Sun still fluttering over the small encampment. "This is now an American base!"
McHale, Willy, and Tinker headed for the radio shack. The tall lieutenant joined them. "McGarrett, Naval Intelligence," he introduced himself. "Look for code books!"
"Already taken care of," McHale growled. "Willy's our radioman. He knows what to look for. If there's anything we can use, he'll find it."
Only two men were in the radio shack, the radio operator and the base commander, both quickly subdued. No one could punch like an angry McHale! Tinker tied their latest prisoners while Willy and McGarrett dumped maps, documents, and code books into a couple of canvas bags.
"Good haul, Skip," the 73's radio operator drawled. "These code books are worth a fortune!"
A bemused McGarrett could only nod. "I'm glad you're with us!" Not the first time McHale and his boys had heard that statement.
"Got everything?" McHale questioned. "Take our prisoners out of here and blow this shack sky high!"
As the landing party gathered down by the dock, a distant crackle of gunfire caught their attention: a puff of dark smoke and the sight of a parachute opening marked the fall of the last Zero. "We'll pick him up," one of the Seabees grinned, "And add him to the collection."
A minute or two later, a series of explosions signaled the end of Washing Machine Charlie's base and an end of the daily runs. "Better head home," McHale said with a hearty laugh. "We'll inform Admiral Rogers, but you'll need to call that general of yours. Protocol, you know!" Then, to the Naval Intelligence officer, "We'll take the code books and maps with us to Vella la Cava. I guess the admiral will want them."
McGarrett nodded. " My CO, too. But I want to see them first!"
"Soon as Pappy and I are done with 'em!" McHale joked. They all knew that their booty would be handed over to the proper authorities ASAP. They'd be lucky to get a mention for capturing those papers!
Dinner in the Sheep Pen was a real feast. Polynesian-style fish, roast pork, ice cream donated by the Seabees, fresh pineapple – Pappy didn't want to know where or how McHale's crew had acquired that! I wonder if Fuji has any friends who'd like to jump ship and join my squad?
Bragging and "Did you see's . . .?" and laughter over a perfect operation had faded into typical inter-service bragging, when a loud "ATTENTION!" caught the men by surprise. Admiral Rogers? General Moore? What were they doing here? We must have been having too much fun to hear them land.!
Black Sheep, Seabees, PT crewmen, a Naval Intelligence officer, and one young mud Marine snapped to attention at once. Fuji ducked behind a counter. Salutes were offered and returned. This was unexpected!
"McHale! Boyington! McGarrett!" the admiral barked, "What's this unauthorized operation? Explain!"
"Well, Admiral Rogers, sir," McHale began, his gift of gab deserting him for once, "Captain Binghamton was getting tired of Washing Machine Charlie's little raids, so he told us to go get him. Since we're just sailors, not pilots like the major and his boys, we decided to ask for a little help. Then the Seabees wanted in on the fun…"
A roar of laughter from the flag officers interrupted the Skip's rambling explanation. "And a good job you all made of it! Well done! The documents you picked up will be invaluable. We believe Charlie is a distraction to cover up a new operation. You may have helped save a lot of sailors and Marines."
"We brought some guards with us, so we'll relieve you of your prisoners," General Moore added. "There will be commendations for all of you!"
"And leave for us?" Gruber broke into the conversation.
Admiral Rogers' eyes twinkled. "As soon as you get the 73 looking like a Navy ship again!"
"And repack our souvenirs," Gruber mumbled sotto voce.
"And as soon as you pack those souvenirs!" Rogers confirmed with a smile.
Epilogue: SFPD, 1973
"Mike, that's some story!" Steve Keller knew his partner had been a Marine, but he hadn't heard much about Stone's time in the service. "Did you stay with the Black Sheep?"
"Only for a few months. Micklin wanted to keep me, but the Corps had other ideas. I was sent back Stateside for specialized training, then got assigned to a JAG unit in Italy late in 1944. Guess that's where I got a taste for police work. Ran into McHale there, too. The Navy transferred his squad to the Mediterranean. Heard some real interesting stuff about some of his adventures."
"Ya know, I'd really like to meet those guys. They must have some great stories!"
"Then what are you waiting for, Buddy Boy?" Mike said as he grabbed his coat and settled his old fedora on his head. "Get your jacket. There's a bunch of flyboys and a PT boat skipper I'd like you to meet!"
Lt. Steve McGarrett is borrowed from the original Hawaii Five-O. That series belongs to CBS. No copyright infringement is intended,